Film is a reliable place to look when seeking out our own weaknesses. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, not 2008) assures us it’s our own trigger-happy nature that will do us in. WALL-E has the human race complacent and consuming, our globe rendered one giant dust bowl. Al Gore is practically banking on the ice caps melting.
Humankind loves to predict our own end. And, whether it’s by nuclear annihilation, global climate change or good old-fashioned sinning, we love it the most when it’s our own fault.
Hopping on the “humans suck” bandwagon this week is Legion, a film that marks fear not by viral contamination or swirling tornadoes over Los Angeles, but by a much more menacing figure: God.
Starring Paul Bettany (The Da Vinci Code, A Beautiful Mind) as a general in God’s army who goes rogue to protect humankind, Legion is a most indulgent example of film-for-film’s-sake. A movie that has no explanation for being made other than, “We were bored.”
What other reason would writer/director Scott Stewart have for gracing us with such poetry as one character’s explanation to why God is so angry at humankind: “I guess he just got tired of all the bullshit”? That, or God must be a cast member of “The Real World.”
At any rate, God has lost faith in humanity (a “faith” that is central to the film’s inconsistent message) and wishes to purge the world of it. To do this he orders his angel minions to corrupt the weak-minded, turning kindly old ladies into froth-mouthed vigilantes. Their goal? Stop the hope for uniting humankind before he is born, à la The Terminator.
At times, like when delivering the quote above, Legion is in spoof of C-grade horror and apocalypse films, putting its tongue in its f-bomb-ridden, possessee shooting, cross-toting cheek. But this charade (at least I hope it’s a charade) is only sporadic throughout the film, providing buckets of entertainment and ear-to-ear smiles when it’s there, and leaving holes of boredom when it goes.
The film would have done well to stick with the camp, to hone in on those parts that, although immensely stupid, make it fun to watch. Instead, Legion bogs itself down with open-ended threads and frustratingly purposeless back-story, and by the end, gives up on itself by focusing too directly on the sequel.
Lacking the production values to support itself, Legion saves face by turning the lights down during much of the film, so much so that you’ll be straining to make sense of the action. It’ a bad sign when, by the end of the final, crucial fight scene, the audience is unsure who won.
Predictably, Legion uses its holy subject matter as a backdrop for a deplorable, regurgitated statement on religion and abortion that ends up looking as ridiculous as the rest of the film. Its rhetoric chases its own tail, insisting on keeping faith in faith, but for what cause? Beyond our right to blast away at a never-ending zombie horde, it’s unclear. In fact, Legion makes rooting against the human race easy to do.
The film is so devoid of meaning and substance that even it doesn’t pay attention. Wanting a Legion 2: Funky Bungalow so bad, it forgets itself just as much as audiences are sure to.